When the Netflix series League of Legends: Arcane released, it almost broke the internet with the explosive reactions of its watchers. If you haven’t watched this series, I strongly recommend it. To give you a quick summary of what is it about, Arcane talks about the backstories of some of the characters in the PC videogame League of Legends. The series present a conflict between two cities: Piltover and Zaun (better known as the underworld). Piltover is the top city, a perfect utopia with the latest inventions in technology, while Zaun is a city full of poverty where people live day by day in the struggle to survive, or as they make it seem, where all the criminals live. This animated series presents many society problems such as the difference between social classes, poverty, child exploitation, drug addiction, political fraud, and many more. I was in awe because I thought this was going to be just a series explaining the backstories of these characters, but when seeing how much it resembled the reality of the society in which we live in, I fell in love with it. Arcane is short, as it only has 9 episodes of 40 minutes each. Warning, this might have spoilers as there are a few things I need to mention to explain myself better.
One of the things I loved from Arcane was that it is full of representation. There’s characters of different races, colors, cultures, social classes, and sexualities. There’s a great representation of the LGBTQ community, as Vi, one of the main characters, falls in love with Caitlyn. It was so funny because, at first, the series lead us to think that Caitlyn loves Jayce romantically, until we see him fall in love with Mer Merdara. Then we realize that Caitlyn loves Jayce in a sibling way because her family practically adopts him so he can carry out his studies in science. You’ll also cancel that idea when you see Caitlyn flirting with a woman when Vi takes her to Zaun’s brothel. Vi looks kind of masculine, maybe because she was taught to fight for her life since she was little, but she embraces it and she’s proud of it (she’s also hot because of it!). Even though we don’t see them together, because as Vi says “they are like oil and water”, the interaction between Caitlyn and her is cute but intense.
Talking about the brothel, sex workers are represented here too, and in my opinion, it was well done. Unlike many movies and series, sex workers were not portrayed in an exploited environment. We can see them free, and one of them even describes it as a paradise. There is no slut-shaming, as people around Zaun visualize this place as something normal, and they respect the workers. The madame also worries a lot for her workers and seems to be -key- for a piece of information. Which I saw as a way of including these people into society instead of rejecting them.
Arcane also approaches the topic of mental illness caused by trauma, and we can see this in the character Powder, better known as Jinx. When little Powder had a great imagination and wanted to be useful for her siblings in the missions. Since she was the younger one, there were (plenty of) things she did not know how to do, so she tended to make mistakes repeatedly. One of her brothers said at one point that she was a jinx because she ruined everything with her mistakes. Trying to prove that she could be of use. She provoked one of the greatest tragedies that resulted in the loss of her brothers. Vi (her sister) was taken by the police. Powder was alone and traumatized by the shock of what she had done; she was responsible for the death of her brother. Silco, who we can call the villain, adopted her and instead of curing her traumas, he fed them to use her to his advantage. Jinx has split personalities. She is confused between being Powder or Jinx, and this confusion worsens when she finally reunites with Vi again. She hears the voices of her brothers telling her to do things and sees people being mean to her even though they do not talk at all; this is the case with Caitlyn. When Jinx meets Caitlyn, thinking she wants to take her sister away from her and tries to wash her brain to catch Jinx. This chaos in her head will cause the -biggest- tragedy in the series.
If something is synonymous with reality in this series is the endless battle between poverty and wealth, between the government and the people. Piltover is the centre of technology and hextech, where all the renowned people live. All seems to be well at first sight, but then you will see they even have a border to control the flow of people that enters the city. In my opinion, the biggest shock I had was in a scene where they placed all the police officers at the border, not letting anyone who came from Zaun come through. They had their reasons. They were supposedly on the lookout for Jinx (who was a threat to the city), but the violence resulting from this decision was horrible, and many of the officers died. Arcane is a perfect example of how the working class is exploited, yet, they live in poverty. Zaun represents the working and the poverty class, while Piltover represents the rich and elite who are never satisfied with what they have. Zaun is located underneath Piltover in case you need any more examples than that to understand the message behind this series –then- I do not know what to tell you. The people of Zaun work hard, fight, commit crimes, and steal for the sake of living, while the people on Piltover feast and live at peace.
This series discusses the topic of drug addiction with a liquid called Shimmer. Silco, who seems to be the producer, offers it to anyone he thinks can handle it and could be practical for him. Shimmer gives strength to people and seems to cure some diseases this way, the people get addicted to it. We can see this in Viktor (a scientist who helps Jayce with his inventions). Viktor is dying, and while he works with Jayce looking for a cure, he goes to an old friend who offers him Shimmer. Viktor seems to improve with his disease and decided to keep using it, until one night when he mixed hextech with Shimmer, which resulted in a disaster. Shimmer seems to be what unites Piltover to Zaun because there are underground exchanges of Shimmer for what I understand as a way of a promise of support.
I mentioned earlier child exploitation, and, in this case, it comes in the production of Shimmer. Jayce and Vi unite to stop the production of this “drug” only to discover that the workers in this factory are kids. Silco is exploiting kids in exchange for Shimmer to their parents. This was horrifying (to me), but it was super interesting to see it shown so raw in a series.
Overall, League of Legends Arcane is fantastic series for me. It discusses a variety of intriguing topics that will make you reflect. The series is well-produced, the graphics are alluring and eye-catching, and the soundtrack is top-notch. If you have not watched it, I encourage you to do so because you will not regret it, I promise.